How Trump hijacked the Republican ‘idea factory’

In Georgia, where Democrats not only defeated Trump in November but turned the U.S. Senate upside down in the runoff elections, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill requiring identification on Tuesday. when requesting an absentee ballot. The next day, it was a bonanza across the country. The Iowa House passed a bill designed to limit early voting. In Missouri, the Republican-controlled House passed legislation that would require photo identification at the polls, while a legislative committee in Wyoming moved forward with a similar bill.

The Brennan Center for Justice is tracking more than 250 bills to restrict voting by lawmakers in 43 states.

Benjamin Ginsberg, an election attorney who has represented former Republican presidential candidates, mourned the death of the “Factory of ideas” in the Republican Party.

“Tell me what have been the groundbreaking Republican policies lately?” he said. The focus on re-litigating the last election is “probably a sign that the Republican Party is stuck in a political wasteland and doesn’t know which way to go out.”

Alberto Gonzales, a former attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, said that “all Americans should be concerned about the integrity of the elections.” But without evidence of widespread fraud beyond normal irregularities, he said, the focus of some in the GOP in the last election is a “great distraction” from the issues that are most pressing to the electorate.

“I think it’s a huge distraction,” Gonzales said. “And I’m concerned that it will continue to be a huge distraction as long as a certain person makes statements that they were stolen.

There is nothing to suggest that Trump, who will speak at the convention on Sunday, is letting go, or that the party rank and file are prepared to walk away from his claims that his election was stolen, despite more than 60 losses in election trials. challenging the presidential election.

This has not always been the case in the Republican Party. Last year, the CPAC theme was “America Against Socialism.” The year before that, there were no fewer than three panels that focused on the challenges posed by a rising China. This year, CPAC did not leave without a broadcast of the party’s greatest hits: commerce, China, immigration and abortion. And there were screams for Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. But the fallout in November was the main element, in Republicans’ frustration over the removal of the rigs and the seven-part exploration of “protecting the elections.”

In part, the party’s lack of a more progressive stance is due to its sudden lack of power in Washington. The Republican Party is establishing itself as an opposition party, and the Conservatives constitute what Senator Ted Cruz of Texas described in CPAC as “the Rebel Alliance.” But there is little room for innovative and policy-focused conservative thinking in a party so enslaved to one leader, a leader obsessed with the idea that he lost in a rigged election.

Ken Khachigian, a former assistant to Richard Nixon and Reagan’s chief speechwriter, said that the Republican Party today does not have “a singular voice like they did with Reagan, for example, or Bill Buckley, the conservative movement that could rise in a stage and move everyone like Jack Kemp did in his day. “

“There is always hope,” Khachigian said, suggesting that “when you have idiots like AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] on the other hand, it is not difficult to find someone. “

But the hindsight approach in November and its aftermath, he said, is to “shoot blank spaces.”

It may come at a cost. As the Republican Party prepares for the midterm elections and the upcoming presidential primaries, it does so like a shell of itself, having lost the White House and both houses of Congress in the span of four years. The last time he won the popular vote in a presidential election was in 2004, and changing demographics in the United States make it increasingly unlikely that he will do so in 2024, regardless of attempts to raise barriers to voting.

“It is a party that has been designed in the mold of Trump, the message of Trump, the tactics of Trump, and it is perfectly comfortable to be a party that is defined by what it is against,” said Kevin Madden, former adviser to Mitt Romney. .

The difficulty for the party, Madden said, is “you become almost toxic as a party brand to larger and growing parts of the electorate. … The limitation of a message and a platform that is simply about disagreeing with the opposition is that it does not speak to the broader concerns or anxieties of a large part of the electorate.

The party’s fixation on electoral fraud and the perception of silencing those who tried to reverse the result may fade. Trump’s effort to contest the election postponed the traditional post-election period of mourning for the losing party. And because a majority of Republicans still approve of Trump and believe the elections were neither free nor fair, there is a political imperative for the party to appease them.

Sal Russo, a former Reagan aide and co-founder of Tea Party Express, said that “sometimes you have to give a little deference to where your base wants to go. … Do I think that Republicans have to overcome the problems of the electoral process? Yes, because you don’t win by ‘we’re going to strengthen absentee voting eligibility’. It does not happen that they vote ”.

“I think there is a catharsis that has to happen,” he said, adding that “it is probably a good thing that CPAC is spending a lot of time” on the issue.

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